President Muhammadu Buhari’s appointment of Yusuf Bichi as the new Director-General of the State Security Service (SSS) has drawn the ire of senior officials within the key national security department.
It was gathered that many of them are threatening to undermine not just the president’s re-election bid but also Nigeria’s counter-terrorism operation against Boko Haram.
Multiple officers told Premium Times the secret police’s headquarters in Abuja and field offices across the country have been subsumed by an air of anxiety and volatility since Buhari recalled Yusuf from retirement and named him as a replacement for Matthew Seiyefa on September 13.
Seiyefa’s removal came a little over a month after he was appointed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
Seiyefa was the most senior official at the time of his appointment, having enrolled in service in 1984. He assumed office with promises to perform his duties differently from his predecessor, who was infamous for his crude and controversial approach to law enforcement.
In his first two weeks as DG, Seiyefa’s soft reform efforts were already being felt with the gradual release of ‘illegally-detained’ suspects from custody and the appointment of the agency’s first spokesperson in three years.
A few days before his removal, it was learned that Seiyefa’s job was being threatened by top presidential aides, especially the chief of staff, Abba Kyari.
Kyari, whom presidency sources said was unhappy about the sack of Daura, tried to mitigate Seiyefa’s control over the SSS.
Reports also say that the chief aide ordered Seiyefa to undo some administrative decisions he had taken, including postings, and operate only as directed by the presidency going forward.
Recent findings show that Buhari faces the most potent threat to his reelection not from political opponents or critics like southern leaders but from disgruntled elements deeply embedded in Nigeria’s security architecture.
“Afakriya Gadzama (2007-2010), Ita Ekpeyong (2010-2015), Lawal Daura (2015-2018) and Matthew Seiyefa (2018) all belong to the same class,” a senior official said.
“Now all of them have been directors-general and no one from our generation has managed to get that high.”
Another officer from northern Nigeria condemned Bichi’s appointment as threatening his own career, saying he would not forgive Buhari for bringing him from retirement.
“This man retired since 2015, he got a security consultant deal with Lawal Daura that kept him near the SSS for two years until 2017, so why was he recalled three years after retirement?”
“I am a northerner and I do not agree with this move by the president because it will destabilise the service,” he said.